Rhinoceros Iguana

(Cyclura cornuta)


Rhinoceros Iguana IUCN VULNERABLE (VU)


Facts about this animal

Rhinoceros iguanas are large and robust lizards. Their snout-vent length is up to 74.5 cm in males and up to 62 cm in females. The tail is about as long ans head and body combined. There is a vertebral row of enlarged dorsal crest scales on neck, body and tail forming a crest which is highest on the neck and lowest on the tail. Enlarged jaw muscles and a bulky dewlap make the heads of mature males appear massive, an appearance, which is futher enhanced by 3-5 enlarged horn-like scales on the snout, which surrounded by small scales. These horn occur in both sexes. The colour of the skin is greyish, brown, or olive.

Dry, rocky forests in coastal areas, which may contain cactus and other thorny plants, constitute the preferred habitat of rhinoceros iguanas. The iguanas may also be found in scrub woodlands, semi-deciduous forests and dry to subtropical, moist forests.

Rhinoceros iguanas are diurnal, spending the night in retreats. Rock crevices, caves, burrows dug in soil or sand, and hollow trunks are also used during the day for resting, cooling or sheltering. They are terrestrial, but will climb if they need to reach better fruits or a more suitable sun basking spot, or for overseeing defended areas. Males are territorial, and will defend their territories aggressively. Rhinoceros Iguanas are sexually mature between 5 to 9 years of age. Their 2 to 3 week breeding season seems to be triggered by the beginning of the first rainy season in April. The females dig burrows when they are about to lay their eggs. These burrows may tunnel 1 meter before reaching the nest chamber. An average clutch of eggs may range from 5 to 20 eggs. These eggs are usually laid between late June and August. Once the female deposits the eggs, she covers them up with soil. The young will hatch 162 - 187 days later. Hatchlings are born approximately 18 cm long and are quite active.

The diet of rhinoceros igianas consists mainly of plant material, such as flowers and fruit, but the igiansas will also eat insects and occasionally eggs and larger prey.

Did you know?
that rhinoceros iguanas are much more terrestrial than the green iguanas? This allows them to live in rockier and drier areas. They are rarely found in trees or even forested areas.


Name (Scientific) Cyclura cornuta
Name (English) Rhinoceros Iguana
Name (French) Cyclure cornu
Name (German) Nashornleguan
Name (Spanish) Iguana rinoceronte
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Frank C. Müller



Range C. cornuta cornuta: Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) C. cornuta stejnegeri: Mona Island C. cornuta onchiopsis: formerly Navassa Island
Habitat Found in dry forests characterized by xeric, rocky habitats of eroded limestone in coastal terraces and lowlands
Wild population Rough estimate 10'000 to 17'000, declining in most parts of the range. Populations are seemingly stable only on Isla Beata and the extreme of the Barahona Peninsula inside Parque Nacional Jaragua.
Zoo population 180 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Rhinoceros Iguana


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Frank C. Müller

Why do zoos keep this animal

Rhinoceros iguanas are the most common rock iguana in zoos. They serve as an ambassador species for the more endangered representatives of the genus. As local extirpations are known from both Dominican Republic and Haiti, zoo-bred animals could be made available for reintroductions where appropriate.